Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment

M. Ohsawa and T. Kitazawa:

Biocultural diversity and functional integrity of Japan’s rural landscape


All major components of the Japanese traditional rural landscape, Satoyama, are used to sustain livelihoods and to keep rich biodiversity in various habitat types. Semi-natural forests and grasslands maintained through traditional agricultural practices in suburban Tokyo are habitats for relict species from previous, extensive grasslands, including the land used for horse grazing. Mown grasslands not only provide fodder and green manure, but also open margins for arable land, reducing its shading by neighbouring forests and harbouring relict species. Traditionally maintained satoyama thus represents a functionally integrated sustainable system in which even partial loss of forests and grasslands, or modification of agricultural activities (e.g., replacing cattle and horses with machines), may destroy marginal habitats for diverse species and lead to a considerable loss of endangered relict species. The third National Bio - diversity Strategy of Japan shows that nearly half of the endangered species were once commonly found in rural landscapes. Major causes of the species loss are habitat loss through the land use changes related to socio-economic changes in the suburban area. Key words:  habitat diversity, traditional management, grassland relics, satoyama.